What exactly does it mean to be assertive?
How often do you hear this? ‘Your problem is – you’re not assertive enough.’
Let’s look at some signs that you might need to be more assertive.
How many of these apply to you?
- You never really focus on what you want in life.
- You often say ‘yes’ to a request and instantly regret it.
- You put yourself down in the company of friends.
- If something goes wrong you blame yourself.
- You apologise all the time.
- You’re afraid to rock the boat.
Sounds familiar? Oh dear. Perhaps I can help!
So, what is assertiveness?
In my view assertiveness is -
- The ability to say No and mean it.
- The ability to show your confidence.
- The ability to not allow people to manipulate you.
- The ability to not allow yourself to be talked into things that you’re not comfortable with.
- The ability to be firm and not swayed by others’ opinions.
Assertiveness is not -
- Being arrogant.
- Having no thought about how your behaviour/words affects others.
- Acting in a superior way.
- Being a bully.
- Having power over others.
Would you like to start being more assertive? If your answer is yes, here are my Assertiveness Guidelines to help you.
- Remember that your rights are no more/less important to be considered than others’ rights.
- Unless you tell people how you feel or what you want to happen, they won’t know.
- When you’ve found the strength to tackle an annoying/irritating issue, you need to be clear about what you want and what you want to happen.
- Always listen to the other person’s response.
- Be persistent, don’t cave in.
- Try to speak clearly but firmly, and don’t raise your voice.
Here’s an example of how one of my clients practised and learned to be assertive with her family. Sarah (not her real name) was fed up with being manipulated. She said this -
‘I feel manipulated by my sister and my mother-in-law. It’s alwasy been easier to just go along with arrangements even if I hate it. I feel I’m wearing a strait jacket.’
She decided this -
‘I will no longer allow myself to be forced into situations. I hate having to go to the annual family fireworks party. I have nothing in common with the people there. I end up hiding in the kitchen until it’s time to come home. The trouble is, I know my mother-in-law will try to persuade me to come and I’ll feel guilty when I refuse.’
- Sarah sat down quietly, and calmly explained to her OH how she felt. She made it clear what she wanted to do and why she wanted to do it. To her amazement he supported her and she replied to the invitation with a firm ‘No’.
- As a result Sarah felt able to begin using assertiveness strategies in other situations and her confidence started to grow.
This is only one small example of how you can start to be assertive. As with confidence, it won’t happen quickly.
But I promise you this -
The more you work on your assertiveness techniques the better you’ll be at it and the more confident you’ll feel.
- Do you have any tips to pass on to help readers become more assertive?
- Are there any areas in your life in which you struggle to be assertive?
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